What Is a Placenta Smoothie (and Why Are People Making Them)?
The idea of placentophagy (consuming a placenta) was first documented in the early 1900s, but wasn't actually done (as far as we know) until the 1970s. However, it is only in recent years that the placenta smoothie has become a "superfood" fad. Many mothers claim it boosts their immunity and has exceptional healing powers.
These benefits have not been scientifically proven, so the question remains: What is a placenta smoothie and why are people eating it?
The placenta smoothie
Placentas have a high stem cell count, which many people assume can help restore organ health and heal torn tissues if consumed. Most mammals consume their placenta to help them in the postpartum recovery period (and to prevent predators from tracking them). However, it's worth noting that most mammals have entirely different reproductive physiology. So eating a placenta because other mammals do isn't exactly a good reason.
Women have explored the different ways a placenta can be consumed—pills, smoothies, eaten like a steak. The preferred option is a smoothie, as it keeps most of the nutrients alive. The other methods require the placenta to be baked, which removes most of its redeeming qualities.
Risks and rewards
Some mothers claim placenta consumption has increased their milk production, elevated their mood, given them increased energy and acted as a pain reliever. Due to the amount of iron it contains, it's claimed that eating a placenta helps anemic patients and is essential to reducing postpartum bleeding. On an emotional note, mothers have said they felt more connected to their babies after consuming a placenta, and also claim it reduces their chances of developing postpartum depression.
Eating a placenta in raw offered no protection from postpartum ills and did not aid new mothers in any tangible way.
However, a study conducted in 2015 by Northwestern University School of Medicine evaluated various research on the subject and found no health benefits to consuming a placenta. The research indicated that eating a placenta in raw, encapsulated or cooked form, offered no protection from postpartum ills and did not aid new mothers in any tangible way.
Meanwhile, eating a placenta smoothie might do more harm than good. More research is needed on the various risks involved, but at least one case in 2016 found that consuming a placenta led to the development of group B streptococcus infection. The effects of this infection can be deadly and can be passed on to the infant, which is what happened in the above case.
For safety's sake…don't do it
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns against placenta consumption. If you are hell-bent on consuming it, talk to your doctor first. They may offer guidance on how to safely engage in the process, or they might tell you, just don't do it.